Please Oppose Article 13 – A creators perspective.

This is an email sent to my MEPs (Lynn Boylan, Brian Hayes, and Nessa Childers) today, regarding the proposed change to copyright in the EU, known as ‘article 13‘. This change will endanger the ability of small production companies and artists to disseminate their work online. It represents the greatest threat to free communication and creative work online in the history of the EU. You can find out more here or send your own email here.

Dear MEP,

You are no doubt receiving a lot of emails about the vote on article 13 of the proposed European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market tomorrow.

I am a small independent filmmaker and radio producer. I’ve been developing original programming for radio and web in Ireland since 2008. My website which provides free copies of all my programmes is http://garethstack.com

I wanted to explain to you exactly how article 13 would affect my business and creative output. As a radio producer all of my programmes have been funded through the Sound and Vision Scheme and developed using creative commons assets and public domain assets. These sound effects and music are created by a community of engaged creators who allow their work to be further developed by others for free. This means that when I write and produce a new radio drama, some of the sound effects are original, some are derived and remixed – legally and with blanket licensed permission – from other sources, such as the website freesound.org.

Similarly, when I release my programmes, they are available for others to remix as they see fit. When I record original sound effects foley, they are made available for others to use in their films, TV or radio programmes or in their hobby projects, such as short films. These flexible licences empower creators to decide exactly how their work may be used – remixed with or without credit, shared only when the derivative work uses a similar licence, etc etc.

My shows have been broadcast numerous times on RTE Lyric, Newstalk and local stations throughout Dublin. They have won international awards, and been rebroadcast in the United States. None of them would have been possible to produce or release under article 13.

The legal requirement for automatic upload filtering systems would place an undue burden on free public domain and creative commons hosting services like freesound. More seriously, these systems invariably operate on the assumption that the first uploader to lay claim to a sound or piece of video footage is the ‘owner’ of that footage – irrespective of who originally created it, or what the actual licence under which it is released was. Again and again it has been demonstrated, on youtube, on soundcloud and other platforms, that this leads to widespread abuse. That automated copyright enforcement is both intentionally and accidentally used to remove completely legal clips and programmes. This has already happened to me. In a situation where the delicate web of hosting companies that allow online distribution – from wordpress, to soundcloud, to freesound, to bandcamp; are forced to implement these filtering solutions, businesses like mine will be impossible.

Small media creators – every single one of whom is reliant on both purchasing samples and using free samples; whether sound effects, video clips or music; will be unable to reliably host and distribute their original, legally created content. This will enormously impact the following industries and many others – music production, independent music distribution, film post production, podcasting, radio production etc etc.

This is my personal experience – as someone who has already had content removed incorrectly by automated content system. Systems which cannot be challenged without endangering the creators access to the platform. Systems which operate as black boxes where decisions are made without fair and equal access for creators. Systems that ‘big content’ conglomerates have direct access to ‘take down’ content they do not own, without consequence merely by laying claim to it.

This is not even the primary danger of such systems – which can be abused to limit political speech and to target contentious individuals or political groups. It is not the primary danger of article 13 – which will limit the ability to freely disseminate news and information.

It is however the element of article 13 which directly and immediately affects my livelihood and the livelihood of ALL of those working in the Irish radio and film industry, whether directly or indirectly, from actors to grips, from radio hosts to newspaper delivery drivers.

A regime like this will enable a small number of large conglomerates to lay claim to content they did not create, and to serve as gatekeepers for what is disseminated online. It will not help creators. It will not protect jobs. It is copyright law run amok in the service of corporations that exist explicitly and exclusively to exploit the creative work of others.

I ask you as my MEP to please oppose this legislation. As a voter, I will remember your actions on this issue which threatens my income, and more importantly the continued availability of every piece of work I have created in my adult life.

Thank you,
Gareth Stack

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The Instrument of the Law – Episode 5 – Mad Scientists of Music

This episode looks at how innovative new ways of making and distributing music are coming into conflict with our legal system. Some argue that copyright and patent laws, created to encourage innovation, are no longer in touch with how artists remix and reinterpret our cultural landscape.

Part 1 – Piracy

We learn about copyright law, the ‘copy left’ movement and new licensing schemes like Creative Commons. Eoin O’Dell corrects some common copyright misapprehensions, Ed Devane and Simon Kenny discuss their experiences having their music pirated. Niamh Houston (Chipzel) discusses how small Chiptune artists are challenged by ubiquitous piracy and major label plagiarism alike.

Part 2 – Sampling

Ewan Hennelly and Meljoann talk about the culture of sharing. MarQu and Meljoann describe about how ready access to the internet enabled them to learn techniques and exposed them to niche scenes that would have been unavailable historically; and how our always on, connected society is reshaping music. MarQu VR discusses the endemic and transformative use of samples in VJing and parody.

Part 3 – Illegal Art

Karakara (Kieran Dold) and Siam Collective (John Leech) discuss the idea of remixing as a crime and illegal art as a wilfully provocative act.

Featured Interviewees:

Eoin O’Dell, Colm Olwill (DJ PCP), Seb & Emma of Deathness Injection, Niamh De Barra, Simon Kenny (aka Bitwise Operator), Ed Devane, Meljoann, Ewan Hennelly (also known as HERV / ZPG), MarQu VR, Andrew Edgar, Kieran Dold (Karakara), Niamh Houston (Chipzel), John Leech (Siam Collective).

Download:
Episode 5 – ‘The Instrument of the Law

About the Series

BAI logo mark colourMad Scientists of Music is a six part, BAI funded documentary series on Near FM. The show explores the world of Circuit Bending, Chip Tune, and Electroacoustic music in Ireland. Low cost technology, recycled instruments and a new attitude to tinkering embodied by the ‘maker movement’ are helping to reinvent music. A new generation of Irish musicians raised around computers, the internet and video gaming, see noise as something to be hacked, taken apart, and reconstructed. These artists build their own instruments, whether by recycling toy keyboards, modifying video game consoles, or attaching electronics to traditional stringed instruments. They often share their music online for free, and in doing so challenge our ideas about copyright and ownership. Their playful attitude to technology finds new uses for obsolete devices and brings the collaboration of musicianship to engineering and the arts.

Tracks used

Chipzel – Only Human Foilverb Remix (RoughSketch)
Karakara – Illeagle – Thesis Song
Karakara – Illeagle – You called it that
Karakara – Illeagle – God only knows
Karakara – Illeagle – Really
Karakara – Illeagle – In Light of your misleading

Lobat – my little droid needs a hand
Covox – Sunday – handheld electropop

Siam Collective – Melatronic Mission (unreleased rough mix)
Siam Collective – Meatloaf Madness (unreleased rough mix)
Siam Collective – Simpson Chemical (unreleased rough mix)

‘Mad Scientists of Music’ – April Update

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It’s April and I’m closing in on a final shape for the show. It’s been almost a year since I started preliminary research and interviews for ‘Mad Scientists‘, an enormously self indulgent amount of time to work on a radio documentary series. And yet, I feel I’ve hardly scratched the surface of the Irish experimental music scene. Creativity is a process of continuous curation, in fiction and especially in documentary, where research and footage accretes into a melange of gooey information that threatens to overwhelm you. Several years ago I embarked on an ill fated project to document the experience of Irish refugees at the hands of immigration services. Ultimately I had to abandon the project. I was simply unprepared to deal with the responsibility of capturing the experiences of people who’d been so cruelly treated, made so invisible by our state, by our indifference.

Maybe that’s why I switched to writing comedy. While the stakes are the same – failing or succeeding on the public stage, the consequences are purely personal. I’ve grown up a lot in the years since the documentary film flatlined. I find one of the positive aspects of getting older is an increase in organisational capacity – the ability to plan, to anticipate how long a task will take, to reassess a project as it develops. I’m still a disorganised shambles, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but these days I get the things I start done.

With that in mind, here’s where I’m at with the doc. I’ve got four thirty minute episodes almost finished, with two further episodes about half done. I’ve also pulled together a bunch of bonus content – four additional web only episodes, that will flesh out the musicians featured in the show, and focus on topics (like musical influences, nerd culture and so on), that the series doesn’t have time to fit in.

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Episode 1 ‘Learning How to Listen‘, will take you on a tour of educational music projects. Starting at a circuit bending workshop in the Northside Shopping Centre, we stop by Roger Gregg’s eclectic home studio, before calling in on an instrument building workshop led by Ed Devane. We finish up with a visit to noise duo Deathness Injection’s incredible Culture Night mass collaboration, where hundreds of visitors to Exchange Dublin experienced the thrill of performing together.

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Episode 2, ‘Growing Up Digital‘ will examine the impact of videogames on contemporary electronic music through the childhood anecdotes of a variety of performers. We’ll introduce you to chiptune – music made with retro consoles and home brew software, and take a tutorial in gameboy synthesiser ‘Little Sound DJ‘ in the capable hands of chiptune diva Chipzel (Niamh Houston).

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Episode 3, ‘Taking Toys Apart‘, starts off in Germany, in the home ‘laboratory’ of author and musician Julian Gough (Toasted Heretic). Then we’ll hear about the impact of the geography of consumerism on toy hacking, from Gamepak Collective founder Andrew Edgar. Andrew, MarQu VR, and John Leech will explain the genesis of Dublin’s first chiptune collective. Finally, John demonstrates the dark art of cartridge ripping.

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Episode 4, ‘The Hacker In the Gallery‘, is still a work in progress. This episode will example the relationship between hackers, musicians and the world of fine art audio.

Episode 5, ‘The Instrument of the Law‘, tackles copyright, sampling, and illegal art, introducing two fantastic unauthorised albums from Kieran Dold (Karakara), and John Leech (Siam Collective); and featuring the legal wit and wisdom of Trinity College’s Dr Eoin O’Dell.

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Episode 6, ‘Postcards from the Edge‘, is still to be finalised. This episode will bring listeners some of the latest developments in electronic music, including a geocaching tour of Brighton and the South downs from Ewan Hennelly (HERV, ZPG), and an astonishing new software synthesiser under development from Dublin musician / programmer Bitwise Operator (Simon Kenny).

That’s it for the radio series. For web listeners, four additional interview based episodes will be released during and just after broadcast of the radio series. ‘Beginnings‘ covers the early musical influences and development of musicians like Meljoann, Oswald Green, Kieran Dold and Niamh De Barra. ‘Copyrights & Copywrongs‘ delves deeper into Creative Commons and the much needed reform of Irish copyright law, and touches on the patenting of music technology. ‘Irish Electronic Scenes‘, examines a variety of recent underground music scenes, through the eyes of Colm Olwill (DJ PCP), the Gamepak Collective, and Ewan Hennelly. Finally, ‘Nerds vs Chicks‘, collects two fascinating conversations, around the role of nerd culture and gender respectively, in electronic music. These bonus episodes are pretty rough at the moment, and will likely consist simply of voices, without music or on location recordings, but they include some of the best anecdotes and most fascinating characters of the series.

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I can’t wait to get the show out there, and introduce new listeners to the incredible artists featured. I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the show so far – Ewan Hennelly, Andrew Edgar, John Leech, MarQu VR, Niamh DeBarra, Niamh Houston, Meljoann, Colm Olwill, Simon Kenny, Kieran Dold, Seb & Emma of Deathness Injection, Roger Gregg, Ben Gaulon, Stephen Mcloughlin, Ed Devane an Eoin O’Dell.

Mad Scientists of Music will be out June 2014, on Near FM, and online at this site.

Lawrence Lessig on the criminalisation of culture

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Lawrence Lessig has consistently been one of the most important figures in the debate over copyright reform, ‘piracy’, and remix culture over the last decade. He’s recently switched his energies to battling the corrupting effect of PACs, lobbyists and outright bribery in the US political system, so it’s rare these days to hear him talk about how the law is prohibiting the development of culture, criminalising creativity and creating and extremism on both sides of the debate. A development that Lessig argues, has led to the social normalisation of copyright infringement on one side, and to the legal persecution of thousands of otherwise law abiding citizens on the other.

Arguably, Lessig stands to the right of most of this generations creative community, but compared to the current legal prohibitions in place around the world, from the DMCA to the EUCD, he’s a leftist loon; and that’s how he’s frequently been portrayed in the media.

In these three video interviews with San Francisco’s ‘Booksmith‘, Lessig briefly outlines the moderate copyright reform position he advocates in his book ‘Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy’ .

More Lawrence Lessig videos..

TED 2007, How creativity is being strangled by the law
Google Lecture

Cheated by the DMCA

Social media, user generated content, folksonomies, Web 2.0. Geeks usually view these emerging phenomena in a glowing light – as ways for individuals and groups to co-operatively contribute to the generation of technology, culture and information. To cynics such buzzwords define methods for private companies and corporations to build products and databases without needing to pay for the work involved. Either way, social media has become ubiquitous online, with topic specific social networks connecting the audiences of most major websites, while user generated content (from Facebook posts, to Google Maps mashups) add value for users and content owners alike. This year sees user generated content spill over into interactive entertainment in a big way, with games like Will Wright’s ‘Spore‘, and Media Molecule’s ‘Little Big Planet‘ gaining appeal through thousands of user made creatures and levels; content produced for free by people contributing their creative energies and time.

The downside of user generated content is that creators, coders, artists, and authors – the ones producing the content – are engaging in a one sided relationship. Their work, once contributed, can become wholly owned and controlled by the company they provide it to. If the creative work becomes part of a larger whole then this non reciprocal relationship means that while the website, book, or games they’ve added to can freely use their contributions, the opposite is not true.

My friends and I experienced the flip side of social media this week. Two years ago we entered a contest to be part of a video by the punk group ‘Yeah Yeah Yeahs’. The collaboration asked fans to dress up like the band and film themselves dancing around to the song ‘Cheated Hearts’, a track from the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s second LP ‘Show Your Bones’.

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It wasn’t an original idea, the Welsh indie group Feeder had done pretty much the same thing almost five years before, with their fantastic video ‘Just a Day“; but we liked the band, we liked the song, and it looked like fun.

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My friends and I duly spent an evening getting dressed up in ludicrous costumes and makeup, and filming ourselves in various states of confusion. Afterwards, we ripped our tapes to computer and sent the originals, along with a release providing the band and their representatives with ownership of “all worldwide rights in the material submitted”. This rather lunatic agreement is pretty standard as far as user generated content goes, and though we didn’t like it, it was required to contribute.

A few months later we received a notice from the band, to the effect that our performance was to be included in the final video, and that we would receive a prize for our contribution. Shortly afterwards the band sent us a token bunch of signed pictures, stickers, patches and the like.

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Finally the Cheated Hearts video was released. Rather than being exclusively fan made, it intermixed contributions from fans and a second official band video.

Despite being flattered (and embarrassed!) at be flashed across MTV around the world, we were a little disappointed that our contribution (it’s at the 3.04 mark) was a just 3 seconds long. So we took our footage, synced it to the song and uploaded our own fan edit video, as did a variety of other folks [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]. It was something to email our friends about, Continue reading